Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (born 12 February 1982), known by his stage name Bobi Wine, is a Ugandan musician, actor, businessman, politician and philanthropist. As of 11 July 2017, he serves as the member of parliament representing Kyaddondo East constituency in Wakiso District, in Uganda’s Central Region.
Background and education
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu was born on 12 February 1982 in Nkozi Hospital, where his late mother worked. He grew up in the Kamwookya slum in the northeastern part of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda.
Kyagulanyi attended Kitante Hill School, where he attained his Uganda Certificate of Education in 1996, as well as Kololo Senior Secondary School, where he attained his Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education in 1998. He then attended Makerere University in Kampala, where he studied music, dance, and drama, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2003.
Kyagulanyi began his music career in 1999, and adapted the stage name Bobi Wine. His first singles “Akagoma”, “Funtula”, and “Sunda” (featuring Ziggy D) brought him success in the East African music scene. His music has been characterised as reggae, dancehall, and afrobeat, often with a socially conscious message. He was the leader of the group Fire Base Crew until its disbandment, after which he started a new group known as Ghetto Republic of Uganja. He has released more than 70 songs over 15 years.
Wine is also a film actor, mainly starring in local Ugandan movies. In 2010, he was cast in Cleopatra Koheirwe‘s drama film Yogera. In 2015, he was cast in a lead role in the Twaweza-supported film Situka with Hellen Lukoma. He has also worked on a number of other films, including Divizionz.
In April 2017, Kyagulanyi announced his candidacy for parliament in an upcoming by-election for the Kyaddondo East Constituency. His door-to-door walking campaign attracted attention both in Uganda and abroad. He won the contest by a wide margin, beating two seasoned candidates: Sitenda Sebalu of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and Apollo Kantinti of the main opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).
In 2018, Kyagulanyi gained increasing fame, championing the victories in most of the by-elections by the candidates he campaigned for, thus beating out NRM and FDC candidates.
Arua by-election incident
On 14 August 2018, supporters of the independent candidate for parliament Kassiano Wadri allegedly obstructed and attacked President Yoweri Museveni‘s convoy in the northern town of Arua, near Gulu. Museveni’s motorcade was allegedly pelted with stones, leading to clashes between security forces and protesters. Later, Kyagulanyi, an outspoken critic of Museveni, revealed through a social media post that police had intentionally shot at his vehicle, killing his driver. Kyagulanyi had endorsed Wadri’s candidacy against the official pro-Museveni candidate in Arua.
Kyagulanyi was arrested on 15 August 2018 for possible charges of unlawful possession of firearms and incitement to violence, after which he was brought in front of a military court and charged with the former the following day. The Times reported that Kyagulanyi appeared to have been beaten before appearing in court. Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, a lawyer who has represented detained MPs, said that Kyagulanyi was in a worrying state of health and needed urgent medical attention. The government has repeatedly denied allegations of torture. Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye called a press conference, where he demanded the MP’s immediate release.
With popular protests growing in Uganda demanding Kyagulanyi’s release, and heated discussions in the Ugandan Parliament, the Ugandan State prosecution withdrew the charges filed during Kyagulanyi’s second appearance in front of the General Court Martial in Gulu on 23 August 2018. The prosecution indicated it would further pursue possible charges in a civilian court for a possible trial of the MP. Upon release, Kyagulanyi was rearrested and charged with treason in a civilian court. In September 2018, Kyagulanyi was released on bail and travelled to the United States for medical treatment for injuries he allegedly received in custody. The Ugandan government banned his supporters from gathering on the day of his release, and on the day of his return from the United States. He eventually addressed his supporters in a gathering outside his home upon his return to Uganda on 20 September 2018.
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu
In August 2019, Kyagulanyi was charged with “intent to alarm, annoy or ridicule” President Museveni for his role in the Arua incident the previous year. The charges came a day after the death of Ziggy Wine, a fellow Ugandan musician and staunch critic of Museveni, who was kidnapped and tortured by unknown assailants.
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu
On 22 April 2019, Kyagulanyi was detained while attempting to make his way to a planned concert at his private club in southern Kampala, which was cancelled by police. He was accused of leading a protest in the city the previous year without prior police authorisation; the protest was held against the “social media tax” which took effect in July 2018. On 29 April 2019, on his way to the offices of the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) to honour a summon and provide a statement on the cancelled concert, Kyagulanyi was again arrested and taken to Buganda Road Court, where he was charged with disobedience of statutory duty and remanded to Luzira Maximum Security Prison until his bail hearing on 2 May. In a statement the following day, Amnesty International demanded his immediate release and urged the Ugandan government to “stop misusing the law in a shameless attempt to silence him for criticizing the government.” On the day of the hearing, which was conducted via video conferencing (the first time in the history of Uganda’s justice system), Kyagulanyi was granted bail and released from prison, with the court also barring him from holding unlawful demonstrations.
2021 presidential election
On 24 July 2019, Kyagulanyi formally announced his bid to run for President in the 2021 general election.
Kyagulanyi has supported several practical projects to improve conditions for the poor. In 2012, he started a campaign to promote more regular cleaning in hospitals, sanitation, garbage management, and hand washing to prevent disease. A YouTube video from September 2012 shows him joining Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago in cleaning up Kamwookya, the slum neighborhood where Kyagulanyi grew up. The same year, he also donated funds to build pit latrines and construct a drainage channel in Kisenyi II, a Kampala slum that the New Vision described as being “characterized by filth, crowded shanty structures, poor sanitation and lack of basic social facilities.” Kyagulanyi explained that he embarked on the project “because these are my people, and no matter where I go, this will always be home.”
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu
He has also campaigned for malaria prevention, with donations to Nakasongola Health Centre, and references to the disease in his songs.
In August 2013, Kyagulanyi visited the Bundibugyo Refugee Camp in Bundibugyo District, along with representatives from Save the Children, UNHCR, and the Red Cross, to deliver funds and supplies. The following month, he was named as a parenting ambassador by Twaweza, an NGO that focuses on education and citizen engagement in East Africa; his message in this partnership was to promote responsible parenting among his Ugandan fans. In an interview about the project, he said that “education is what will ultimately change the course of our country and as an artiste and a father, I believe we can all make a difference in our children’s learning.”
In 2014, Kyagulanyi was named as an ambassador for Save the Children’s EVERY ONE campaign, joining a team of 14 Ugandan artists who recorded a special song and video about maternal and child health. Other leading artists in the video included Jose Chameleone, and Radio and Weasel, who make up the Goodlyfe Crew. Kyagulanyi and his wife Barbara travelled to hospitals throughout Uganda, including Nakaseke Hospital, meeting with midwives and health workers to popularize the campaign. Save the Children also took him to other regions for the campaign, including Nyumanzi Refugee Settlement in northwestern Uganda for South Sudanese people.
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu
Wine is often outspoken about political and social issues in Uganda, generating some controversy. Until January 2019, he had a long-standing feud with fellow Ugandan musician Bebe Cool, who has sung in support of President Museveni and the NRM, while Kyagulanyi has supported opposition interests.
In July 2014, it was announced that Wine was to perform in the United Kingdom at The Drum Arts Centre in Birmingham and the Troxy in London. This led to calls for a ban because of his lyrics expressing opinions against homosexuality. Both venues subsequently cancelled Wine’s appearances. In a May 2016 Twitter exchange with ULC Monastery LGBTI, an American Christian group that promotes tolerance toward the LGBT community, Wine suggested that he had moved away from his previous homophobic comments, but did not specifically state that his views on homosexuality had changed.
In 2015, Wine publicly defended the Buganda kingdom’s fundraising efforts as it was harshly criticized by the outspoken Sheikh Muzaata, stirring up a war of words. Kyagulanyi has at times been known as Omubanda wa Kabaka (the king’s rogue) for his devotion to the Kabaka (King) of Buganda.
In April 2016, when Uganda’s only radiotherapy machine in Mulago broke down, Wine took a leading position in widespread public anger at the slow official response, and posted a critique of the government’s handling of public health care, challenging the country’s leaders to make better use of citizens’ taxes.
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu
Throughout the 2015–16 election period, Wine refocused his messages to call for tolerance of different views. Wine’s public calls for calm activism during the 2016 election, with songs such as “Dembe”, provoked mixed reactions from different political interests in Uganda. During this period, the Uganda Communications Commission denied that it had banned “Dembe” from Ugandan radio. Three months after the election, the U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Deborah R. Malac invited Wine to a formal embassy event, and commented that he was a positive influence for local youth.
When the Ugandan government turned off social media during the 2016 election, Wine used a virtual private network (VPN) to post on his defiance to the communications shutdown on his Facebook page while also pointing out that the government continued to use social media during the shutdown they initiated. Bobi Wine was later chosen as a panelist to speak about freedom of expression on World Press Freedom Day in Kampala in May 2016. In March 2016, his fans were surprised to hear him defend the right of his artistic rivals to express views that Wine himself does not support.
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu
Kyagulanyi met his wife, Barbara Itungo, while he was at Makerere University and she was an S6 student at Bweranyangi Girls’ Senior Secondary School. Their wedding took place in August 2011. They have four children together: Solomon Kampala Nyanzi, Shalom Namagembe, Shadraq Shilling Mbogo, and Suubi Shine Nakaayi. Kyagulanyi and his family reside in Magere Village, Wakiso District, where he ensures they “go together to dig and get food, whenever we can. I do that because I want them to learn to live an ordinary life, not as a celebrity.s children.”
On 10 February 2015, Kyagulanyi’s father Jackson Wellington Ssentamu passed away after a lengthy battle with diabetes. The vigil and burial attracted hundreds of mourners including government officials and other celebrities. One month later, Kyagulanyi released the song “Paradiso”, which carries the message of valuing your parents while they are still alive.
Awards and nominations
|2005||Pearl of Africa Music Awards||Song of the Year||“Mama Mbiire” (with Juliana Kanyomozi)||Won|||
|2006||Pearl of Africa Music Awards||Best Afro Beat Single||“Bada”||Won|||
|Artiste of the Year||Bobi Wine||Won|
|Tanzania Music Awards||Best East African Album||Mama Mbiire||Nominated|||
|2007||Pearl of Africa Music Awards||Best Afro Beat Single||“Kiwani”||Won|||
|Best Afro Beat Artiste/Group||Bobi Wine||Won|
|Kisima Music Awards||Best Song Uganda||“Bada”||Nominated|||
|2008||Pearl of Africa Music Awards||Best Afro Beat Artiste/Group||Bobi Wine||Won|||
|2009||MTV Africa Music Awards||Best Video||“Little Things You Do” (Wahu featuring Bobi Wine)||Nominated|||
|2013||HiPipo Music Awards||Artist of the Year||Bobi Wine||Nominated|||
|Best Male Artist||Bobi Wine||Nominated|
|Best Ragga/Dancehall Song||“By Far”||Nominated|
|Best Afrobeat Song||“Jennifer”||Won|||
|2018||Zzina Awards||Afro-Beat Song of the Year||“Kyarenga”||Nominated|||
|Male Artiste of the Year||Bobi Wine||Won|
|Artiste of the Year||Bobi Wine||Nominated|
|Song of the Year||“Kyarenga”||Won|
- 2018 Africanews Personality of the Year
- 2019 Foreign Policy Global Thinkers
- 2019 Rainbow/PUSH International Humanitarian Award
- 2015: Bobi Wange
- 2015: Hosanah
- 2015: Kansubize
- 2015: Ontabira
- 2015: Sweet
- Singles and extended plays
- 2015: “Ayagala Mulaasi”
- 2017: “Freedom”
- 2018: “Kyarenga”
- 2019: “Tuliyambala Engule”
- “Uganda’s pop star sworn-in as lawmaker”. The East African. Nairobi. 11 July 2017. Archived from the original on 11 July 2017. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- Mazinga, Mathias (14 June 2016). “Cardinal Wamala, singer Bobi Wine set for Nkozi Hospital marathon”. New Vision. Kampala. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
- Ariba, Caroline (6 September 2012). “Bobi giving back to the hands that lifted him up”. New Vision. Kampala. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- EACS (11 July 2017). “Bobi Wine: Biography”. Kampala: Eachamps.com (EACS). Archived from the original on 29 September 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- “Kyagulanyi Robert Ssentamu”. Parliament of Uganda. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
- Muriisa, Habre (13 January 2013). “Up Close And Personal With The Ghetto President Bobi Wine”. Chano8 Magazine. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- Nantume, Gillian (1 May 2017). “Uganda: Tracing Bobi Wine’s Journey to Elective Politics”. Daily Monitor. Kampala: AllAfrica.com. Archived from the original on 1 May 2017. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- Queen of Katwe (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Various Artists, 23 September 2016, retrieved 8 October 2018
- Big Eye (5 July 2017). “Photos: Bayima Takes Situka Movie To Mbale”. Kampala: Big Eye Uganda (Big Eye). Retrieved 19 August 2017.
- Koehler, Robert (17 November 2008). “Divizionz”. Variety. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
- Atuhaire, Patience (31 May 2017). “Africa highlights: Wednesday 31 May 2017 as it happened: Uganda’s ‘Ghetto President’ to stand for parliament”. London: BBC News Online. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- Agencies (29 June 2017). “Ugandan mucisian Bobi Wine wins Kyadondo MP seat”. The Star (Kenya). Nairobi. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- Kigambo, Gaaki (15 July 2017). “Bobi Wine calls win a ‘renewal of leadership‘“. The EastAfrican. Nairobi. Archived from the original on 16 July 2017. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
- Muhwezi, Maurice (15 August 2018). “You will pay! Museveni lashes at Bobi Wine, Wadri over Arua chaos”. PML Daily. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
- Muli, Davis (14 August 2018). “Uganda MP Bobi Wine missing as driver is shot dead by police”. SDE. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
- “Bobi Wine, Wadri charged with treason”. www.newvision.co.ug. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
- Flanagan, Jane (17 August 2018). “Uganda MP Robert Kyagulanyi who spoke out against President Museveni ‘tortured’ before military court hearing”. The Times. Cape Town. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
- nationmedia 2017. “Ugandan MP Robert Kyagulanyi in a worrying state of health”. NTV. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
- Patience Akumu (22 August 2018). “Bobi Wine’s arrest and what it could mean for Uganda”. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
- Orinde, Hillary (23 August 2018). “Bobi Wine free at last”. The Standard. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
- “Uganda’s Bobi Wine: Pop star MP charged with treason”. BBC News. 23 August 2018. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
- “Pop-star politician Bobi Wine reaches US after Uganda ‘torture‘“. The Guardian. 2 September 2018. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
- Adebayo, Bukola; Busari, Stephanie (19 September 2018). “Uganda bans supporters of Bobi Wine from gathering ahead of his return”. CNN. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
- Burke, Jason; Mwesigwa, Alon (20 September 2018). “Uganda’s pop star politician addresses jubilant crowds on return from US”. The Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
- “Uganda’s Bobi Wine charged with ‘annoying’ the president”. DW News. 6 August 2019. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
- “Bobi Wine charged with ‘annoying’ Uganda’s Museveni”. BBC News. 6 August 2019. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
- “Ugandan police detain Bobi Wine and fire teargas at supporters”. The Guardian. 22 April 2019. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
- “Bobi Wine leads Ugandans in protest against social media tax”. The Star. 11 July 2018. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
- “Ugandan pop star opposition MP Bobi Wine arrested again”. Al Jazeera. 29 April 2019. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
- “Bobi Wine arrested, arraigned before Buganda Road Court”. The Independent. 29 April 2019. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
- “Uganda: Detention of Bobi Wine is a shameless attempt to silence dissent”. Amnesty International. 30 April 2019. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
- “Ugandan court grants Bobi Wine bail”. The EastAfrican. 2 May 2019. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
- Athumani, Halima (24 July 2019). “Uganda’s Bobi Wine Formally Announces Presidential Bid”. VOA News. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
- Nabakooza, Lydia (30 September 2012). “The September General clean up Kampala Uganda”. NTV Uganda via YouTube. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- Big Eye (24 April 2014). “Bobi Wine in Campaign Against Malaria”. Kampala: Bigeye.ug. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- Big Eye (14 August 2013). “Bobi Wine in Bundibugyo Charity Drive”. Kampala: Bigeye.ug. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- Kasujja, Carol (29 September 2013). “Bobi Wine appointed parenting ambassador”. New Vision. Kampala. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- Parsons, Martha (16 June 2014). “Leading Music Artists Produce New Campaign Song in Uganda”. Kampala: Save the Children Uganda. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- Ssejjoba, Eddie (15 May 2014). “Bobi Wine thrills South Sudanese refugees”. New Vision. Kampala. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- “Bebe Cool fans forsake him over politics, and join Bobi Wine”. Kampala: Bigeye.ug. 22 February 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Matovu, Muhammad (6 January 2019). “Bebe Cool is not my enemy, Bobi Wine speaks out”. The Sunrise. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
- Roberts, Scott (24 July 2014). “Anti-gay Ugandan singer due to perform in Birmingham and London”. London: Pink News. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Nabaasa, Monica (28 July 2014). “Bobi Wine UK Performance Faces Resistance”. Kampala: Chimprepots.com. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- “‘Burn the gays’ rapper axed from UK venues”. Gay Star News. London. 29 July 2014. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Lockley, Mike (29 July 2014). “Anti-gay rapper banned from Birmingham venue over homophobic lyrics”. Birmingham, UK: Birmingham Mail.
- @ULCMLGBTI (24 May 2016). “@HEBobiwine You recently met with the USA Amb. Malac, have you renounced violence toward the LGBT community in Uganda?” (Tweet). Retrieved 12 July 2017 – via Twitter.
- Aine, Kim (23 March 2015). “Bobi Wine Warns of War with Muzaata”. Kampala: Chimpreports.com. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Kimbowa, Joseph (16 February 2012). “Bobi Wine dumped law for music”. The Observer. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
- Namagembe, Lilian (8 April 2016). “Mulago cancer machine breaks down”. Daily Monitor. Kampala. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Sewakiryanga, Ivan (11 April 2016). “Bobi Wine to raise money for Cancer Machine!”. Kampala: Mycampusjuice.com. Archived from the original on 30 October 2017. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- “BBC Interviews Bobi Wine, Calls For Peace During Elections”. Howwe. 29 May 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Wesonga, Nelson (3 January 2016). “UCC Denies Banning Bobi Wine Dembe Song”. Daily Monitor. Kampala. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- “Photo: Bobi Wine and his wife hang out with US Ambassador”. Kampala: Bigeye.ug. 25 May 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- “Being On Social Media Is An Ultimate Act Of Defiance – Bobi Wine”. Chano8. Kampala. 19 February 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Bobi Wine. “As a Ugandan,this disturbs me a great deal. You switch off all social media in Uganda on such an important day and again you start communicating very important messages ON SOCIAL MEDIA to a pooulation that is in a SOCIAL MEDIA BLACK OUT.Who is your target audience??”. Facebook. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
- Ampurire, Paul (4 May 2016). “Ugandan Artistes Criticize State Limitation of their Expression”. Chimpreports.com. Kampala. Archived from the original on 6 May 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Ssejjombwe, Isaac; Arinaitwe, Solomon. “Spare artistes from boycott, Bobi Wine appeals to Besigye”. Daily Monitor. Kampala.
- “Barbie and Children Take Bobi Wine Campaign to a New Level”. Chano8. Kampala. 19 May 2017. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
- Odeke, Steven (11 September 2014). “Bobi Wine rough as a musician, smooth as a father”. New Vision. Kampala. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- “Bobi Wine’s father passes on”. Daily Monitor. Kampala. 10 February 2015. Archived from the original on 23 October 2017. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Omongin, Emmy (13 February 2015). “Politics as Bobi Wine’s father is laid to rest”. Daily Monitor. Kampala. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Ogwal, Lawrence (16 March 2015). “Bobi hosts fans at Paradiso release”. Daily Monitor. Kampala. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- “PAM Awards”. Pearl of Africa Music Awards. Archived from the original on 2 July 2007.
- “2006 Uganda Pam Awards Winners”. UgandaOnline.net.
- “Kilimanjaro Premium Lager Tanzania Music Awards”. Kilitimetz.com. Archived from the original on 10 November 2006.
- “Pearl of Africa Music (PAM) awards 2007 winners”. Museke.com. 5 November 2007. Archived from the original on 23 November 2007.
- “Kisima Music Awards”. Kisima Music Awards. Archived from the original on 9 September 2007.
- “PAM Awards Winners 2008”. Museke.com. 4 November 2008. Archived from the original on 23 February 2009.
- “MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMAs) 2009 nominees”. Museke.com. 26 August 2009. Archived from the original on 14 October 2009.
- “HiPipo Music Awards 2013 Nominees”. The Edge Africa. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- “HiPipo Music Awards 2013 winners”. The Edge Africa. 10 February 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
- Mabonga, Christopher. “Full List Of Zzina Award Winners 2018/2019”. Galaxy FM. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
- “Uganda’s Bobi Wine is 2018 Africanews Personality of the Year”. Africanews. 1 January 2019. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
- “2019 Global Thinkers”. Foreign Policy. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
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Bobi Wine is the latest world figure featured in the Financial Times’ “Lunch with the FT” series. Over a shared meal and a stroll through Kamwokya, FT Africa editor David Pilling asks Bobi about his past, his future, his fears, and his aspirations:
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu